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Dress code

But why can't I wear a T-shirt? asks Osvaldo (fictitious name). It won't work son, replies his mother. But why not? I'm not going naked. It's an outfit like any other, he insists. I know, but in this situation you can't, says the father. But why? he insisted again. It's your sister's wedding, Osvaldo, says his mother. But what do I care about my sister's wedding? I'm not the one getting married! Why do I have to wear a shirt, and what's more, with buttons? The situation could well continue, as many of the readers already know.


Luísa (fictitious name), are you going to wear that? asks her husband. What do you mean? she replies. Are you going to your job interview like that? Yes, of course," she replies. But those are the clothes you usually wear at home, he says. And so? she asks him. It can't be Luisa, you have to wear something more appropriate, do you understand? No, I don't understand, she replies. You'll need to wear something more appropriate and similar to what you wear when you work in a bank, do you understand? No, I don't understand. I have never noticed how women in a bank dress, she tells him.


Autistic people exhibit persistent differences in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction, and a pattern of restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests, as well as unusual responses to sensory stimuli. And about 90% of autistic people have certain issues with sensory responses. And autistic people respond to sensory stimuli with behavioural responses that are not comparative to the quality and nature of sensory stimulation. So people can be hyposensory, in the sense that they have a certain lack of responsiveness to environmental or bodily stimuli. But they can also be hypersensory in their response, characterised by an increased response to sensory stimulus overload. In addition to this polarity, autistic people may repeat certain types of behaviours to strengthen sensory experiences. And as far as avoidance and defence behaviours against these sensory threats are concerned, autistic people tend to anticipate these same experiences and with sensations very similar to those which occur in reality. This fact leads to a feeling of perpetuation of the experience.


These sensory experiences may hinder the educational development of the autistic person, even because it may compromise their ability to concentrate in a classroom. Besides having an impact in other equally important domains of the person's life, since they will always be in contact with many of these stimuli, especially because they will be dressed in almost all situations. But as previously mentioned, autistic people often report that the contact with certain woollen fabrics, heavy blankets and rubber objects, etc., gives them a certain comfort.


I am constantly aware of what I am wearing, says Ruth (not her real name). For me it's impossible not to evaluate what I'm going to wear. Being aware of these sensations 24 hours a day means that I have to choose everything very well, she adds. Otherwise, it could mean a sleepless night because the sheets bother me. Or it's the fabric of the nightgown that's too satiny. And everything I wear in my daily life is the same, she concludes.


And it's not just the clothes, says João (fictitious name). The seats are another matter. At school it was very difficult to find a chair I could sit on, he says. That, and the carpet that the teacher insisted on having to keep his feet warm, was completely horrible. Whenever we had to go to the teacher to show her the exercises and I had to step on that carpet it was very difficult for me to concentrate on what she was saying to me, he adds. And the bus seats were very difficult. I usually made the journey standing up. The problem was that the distance was great and I would always get home very tired, he concludes.


There are clothes that I can't wear, not because of the texture but because of the noise they make, says Carla (not her real name). Yes, clothes make noise too, she adds. And all that makes me very confused. Satin fabrics make a sort of hissing noise when you walk faster. And some of the jackets with viscose fabrics make me shiver when they scrape in other places, he adds.


Not everything is bad, says Raúl (not his real name). Coming home, taking my shoes off and walking on the carpet is therapeutic. I just stand there walking from one side to the other and massaging my feet. It's very comforting, she adds. And the same thing happens to me when I'm at work and feeling stressed. I took a smaller carpet that I have under my desk at work. And when I need to, I close the door, take my shoes off and just sit there and massage my feet, he concludes.


There are clothes that I can't wear not because of the texture but because of the noise they make, says Carla (fictitious name). Yes, clothes make noise too, she adds. And all that makes me very confused. Satin fabrics make a sort of hissing noise when you walk faster. And some of the jackets with viscose fabrics make me shiver when they scrape in other places, he adds.


Not everything is bad, says Raúl (not his real name). Coming home, taking my shoes off and walking on the carpet is therapeutic. I just stand there walking from one side to the other and massaging my feet. It's very comforting, she adds. And the same thing happens to me when I'm at work and feeling stressed. I took a smaller carpet that I have under my desk at work. And when I need to, I close the door, take my shoes off and just sit there and massage my feet, he concludes.


I do not understand why there are labels, says Rafaela (fictitious name). And even more the size of many of them. Not to mention the location of most of them. It seems it's chosen on purpose to annoy. Why don't they put them inside a pocket? she asks. Or be easier to remove. I've ruined a lot of clothes cutting labels. I'm usually nervous about it, because I'm annoyed about having to do it and I cut too much. And when I cut too little it's awful because I've cut my skin from rubbing all day long.


And there are clothes that remind me of certain things, says Claudio (not his real name). For example, if the fabric is rough, it reminds me of sandpaper. Just the thought gives me goose bumps, he says. I love sportswear, says Carolina (not her real name). I wear trainers and tracksuits all the time. It is an outfit that is not only comfortable but mainly because it makes me feel active. It's clothes worn to do sport and that makes me feel active, she concludes.


There are fabrics that remind me of certain memories, says Telma (not her real name). For example, the flannel from my pillows when I was a child. Even today, I still carry a piece of that same fabric in my pocket so that I can keep touching it, she says. Or those pleated skirts my mother wore when I was little and I used to stand there beside her touching them, she says. The curtains in my office are made of that fabric. And as the window is right next to my desk I can feel the curtain next to me, she concludes.


If it were possible to have clothes that didn't touch certain parts of the body, my life would be much better, says Fatima (not her real name). Not having fabric touching my shoulders, elbows and knees would be fantastic, she says. My neck is so sensitive that apart from high collars I can't even tolerate shirt collars, says António (fictitious name).


The sensation? The sensation is of having your body on fire, says Miguel (fictitious name), referring to what he felt when they made him wear jeans. Having your body all day long being pricked by needles is the worst feeling I can describe in my life, says Andreia (fictitious name), when her parents made her wear tights when she was little.


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